Death of Philippines Presidential Security Guard Raises Questions

Authorities in the Philippines are investigating the death of a member of the Presidential Security Group, a unit responsible for the safety of President Rodrigo Duterte, but they have ruled out foul play.

Major Harim Gonzaga’s body was found by his wife on Tuesday morning in the guard’s quarters in Malacanang Park, the PSG’s compound located just across the river from the Malacanang Palace, the president’s official residence.

The 37-year-old died from a single gunshot wound to his chest from a 45-calibre gun found near his body, PSG commander Lope Dagoy told the press. “We are ruling out foul play,” he said, but could not yet tell whether the wound was self-inflicted or the result of an accident with the weapon, the officer’s personal firearm.

Dagoy described the officer as a diligent serviceman who did not have any issues at work. Gonzaga’s wife, whose name was not mentioned in the reports, told Dagoy the couple did not have any relationship problems although the officer had mentioned he had a heavy workload. “I don’t think that’s a reason for him to take his life. We really do not know,” Dagoy said.

09_26_Duterte Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Malacanang Presidential Palace/Handout via Reuters

There were no concerns for President Duterte’s safety, who was far from the location of the incident, according to Dagoy. Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the specific whereabouts of the president at the time of the incident were unclear. “We don’t have any information regarding that,” he said at a regular press briefing, quoted by Reuters.  

"Of course it's a matter of concern. We need to clarify exactly what it was all about. We don't know the exact nature of the incident so we need to be able to find out exactly what it was,” he added.

Duterte, who made no public appearances on Monday, attended a ceremony for the 120th anniversary of the Department of Justice (DOJ) at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City, just south of Manila, on Tuesday.